Debate the Packers’ offseason possibilities in The Football Fan Forum
Here is my sleeper team of the year. The Green Bay Packers. The Packers were a mere 11-5 last year, but a lot of that had to do with their offensive line struggles in the first 8 games of the season. Through those 8 games, Aaron Rodgers took 37 sacks and they went 4-4. Actually, for a quarterback under pressure as much as he was, it was amazing that he led them to a .500 record. On average, he was sacked once every 7.1 attempts over those 8 games. Over a complete season, that would have ranked dead last in the NFL, with the next closest team being the lowly Bills at 9.6 attempts per sack.
However, in the next 8 games, he only took 14 sacks and the team went 7-1, with that one loss coming by 1 point to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In those 8 games, they gave up a sack on average every 20.8 attempts, which would have ranked 8th in the league last year. Those last 8 games were no fluke. Those happened to be the only 8 games that offensive tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher played in. Clifton and Tauscher are both back this year and they drafted Bryan Bulaga in the first round as insurance in case one of those two goes down again. Bulaga could also start at guard this year, giving them another offensive line upgrade, if they choose to make him a guard and get him some experience, before moving him to tackle long term, whenever need be.
I think it’s safe to say, this offensive line will be a lot closer to that 8th ranked offensive line they were in the 2nd half, rather than the dead last ranked offensive line they were in the 1st half, even if injuries do strike again. I go into more detail about how almost all good teams have good offensive lines here, but for a summary of that article, I’ll say this. The top 13 teams in terms of attempts per sack last year all had 8 or more wins. 6 of the bottom 8 teams in terms of attempts per sack last year all had 7 or fewer wins, the two exceptions, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Green Bay Packers, who, I already said, actually helps prove my argument by how much better they were in the 2nd half last year than the 1st. Also, our two Super Bowl teams in 2009, Colts and Saints, ranked 1stand 4th respectively in terms of attempts per sack. Good teams protect their quarterback, in some way.
Almost every Packer skill player on offensive got better statistically in the 2nd half. Aaron Rodgers got better. Ryan Grant got better. Greg Jennings got better. Jermichael Finley got better. The only one who didn’t was Donald Driver, a veteran receiver who wore down as the year went on. Also to blame for Driver’s decrease in production, Rodgers, with more time in the pocket, went for his deep threat Jennings more often than his possession guy, Donald Driver.
Now, spread that 7-1 over 16 games and you get 14-2. Am I going to predict the Packers to win 14 games? No, that’s a little bit crazy. Could they win 14 games? It’s possible, but I think 12 or 13 is more reasonable for this team. After all, they won 11 last year. Their closest division rival, Minnesota, figures to be worse this year based on Brett Favre’s age. I’m not sure he can repeat his amazing 2009 at age 41 (more on that later). I think they’ll split the season series with Minnesota and ride a 12 or 13 win season into the playoffs and if the Saints show some Super Bowl hangover, the Packers are the favorite in the NFC this year, in my mind.
Projection: 13-3 1st in NFC North
Power Ranking: 2
Last season: 11-5
#23 OT Bryan Bulaga (Iowa)
The Packers know how to draft. Bulaga was regarded by some as a top 10 pick prospect and he fills the Packers’ biggest need. This year, if Chad Clifton or Mark Tauscher go down with injury, Aaron Rodgers won’t die. The Packers were 7-1 (7-2 including playoffs) after Clifton and Tauscher came back and Bulaga provides an extremely good backup plan. Both Clifton and Tauscher are also on the wrong side of 30 and could be done soon.
#56 3-4 DE Mike Neal (Purdue)
Doesn’t fill an obvious need, but then again the Packers didn’t have too many obvious needs after the offensive line, because they always draft best available. Neal is a solid value here and a solid player. It’s safe to say, if the Packers continue to draft best available every year, they won’t have a lot of needs in the future and they can continue to draft BPA for years.
#71 S Morgan Burnett (Georgia Tech)
Packers taking BPA again, now if Atari Bigby gets hurt again, they won’t struggle to contain the big play and, unlike most teams who traded up, I can actually see the need to move up in this situation. Burnett would be a borderline 1st rounder most years, but this just happens to be an extremely strong safety class.
#154 TE Andrew Quarless (Penn State)
Again, a solid value, in fact, a pretty great value, but the Packers didn’t exactly need another tight end, though Quarless gives them more options offensively, and tight end doesn’t have a ton of positional value like Neal at the end position does. Plus, Quarless has a bad rep and a bad attitude so he might hurt them more than he helps.
#169 G Marshall Newhouse (TCU)
The Packers needed multiple upgrades on the offensive line. Their guards weren’t too great either and Newhouse possibly has some left tackle upside, considering his measurables, though I have my doubts. Still, this is a decent value, fills a need, and has the potential to be so much more.
#193 RB James Starks (Buffalo)
The Packers badly needed an upgrade at their backup running back position and Starks is a great value here. He’s also a solid 3rd down back with his good hands and he have an instant Tim Hightower type impact as a rookie.
#230 3-4 DE CJ Wilson (East Carolina)
Packers fans probably won’t like the team taking two defensive linemen in one draft, but Wilson should have been drafted 3 rounds earlier and they really didn’t have too many other needs to fill here. They needed a cornerback, but it’s much better to take a 4th round prospect at 3-4 DE than a 7th round prospect at CB.
This was a typical Packers’ draft and they got a lot of talent. They didn’t have a ton of needs coming in, but they addressed almost all of them, with the exception being cornerback, but that’s a position than can be addressed next year. It wasn’t a pressing need. I would have liked to have seen them take another rush linebacker to compete with Brad Jones, but that’s just being picky.
Key undrafted free agents:
3-4 DE John Russell (Wake Forest)
S Robert Vaughn (Connecticut)
Aaron Rodgers was sacked 37 times in his first 8 games and consequently went 4-4 and had two sprained feet. Chad Clifton came back from injury week 9 and Mark Tauscher was resigned out of retirement and their pass protection got a lot better and the Packers went to 7-1 over that stretch, but they worsened again in their playoff loss due to fatigue. Both Clifton and Tauscher are well over 30 and won’t hold up much longer. I even have my doubts about their ability to hold up an entire season and they have no depth behind either of them. They need to focus on offensive tackle in the first round. If Bryan Bulaga is there at 23, they shouldn’t hesitate in taking him and even if he isn’t, they should still consider Charles Brown there because this offensive tackle class gets thin fast and Brown would fit their scheme well.
Drafted Bryan Bulaga (#23)
Charles Woodson just won Defensive Player of the Year, but he’s well over 30 as well and, though he could prove him wrong, I have doubts about the amount of time he can play at this level in the future. Al Harris is pretty much done as a player and Tramon Williams was average at best in his absence last year. They need some more depth at this position for the future.
Ryan Grant won’t do anything wrong, but he won’t be much that wows you either. He doesn’t have a ton of long gains and the Packers could use a 3rd down back behind him. Both CJ Spiller and Dexter McCluster will be considered in rounds 1 and 2 respectively if either is available because they can add that extra playmaker to their offense as a change of pace back and a 3rd down back, and they can also help in the return game. The Packers were so bad at returning kicks last year they had to move Ahman Green to kick returner.
Drafted James Starks (#193)
More than one offensive line upgrade could be had. Their interior blocking wasn’t bad, but could have been better and knowing the Packers tendency to draft best available, they could draft a talented guard in rounds 2-4.
Drafted Marshall Newhouse (#169)
Clay Matthews had a good rookie season, but Aaron Kampman struggled when the Packers switched to a 3-4 and he’s a free agent so he probably won’t be back. Brad Jones looked decent towards the end of last year, but even if he does keep his starter’s job, something I have doubts about, they need depth at the position.
3-4 Defensive End
They are pretty thin at this position behind the starters. If Johnny Jolly isn’t resigned, they would be a lot thinner, but even if he is, depth is necessary.
Drafted Mike Neal (#56), Drafted CJ Wilson (#230)
Atari Bigby is good, but keeps getting hurt so they need some depth behind him at the strong safety position.
Drafted Morgan Burnett (#71)
RB DeShawn Wynn (exclusive rights)
RB Ahman Green
FB John Kuhn (restricted)- resigned 1 year 1.1 million
TE Spencer Havner (restricted)- resigned
OT Mark Tauscher- resigned 2 years
OT Chad Clifton- resigned 3 years 20 million
G Jason Spitz (restricted)- resigned 1 year 1.7 million
G Daryn Colledge (restricted)- resigned 1 year 1.7 million
NT Ryan Pickett- franchised
3-4 DE Johnny Jolly (restricted)- resigned 1 year 2.5 million
3-4 Michael Montgomery
#2 RLB Aaron Kampman- signed with Jaguars 4 years 26 million
Only 3.5 sacks this year, but this was because he didn’t fit the Packers’ new 3-4 scheme. He is still an amazing defensive end in a 4-3 scheme with 43.5 sacks from 2005-2008. Even in this thin market, Kampman could be very cheap for what he can do for a team.
CB Will Blackmon (restricted)- resigned 1 year 1.1 million
CB Tramon Williams (restricted)- resigned 1 year 3.1 million
S Atari Bigby (restricted)- tendered (2nd)
S Nick Collins (restricted)- resigned 4 years 27 million
S Derrick Martin (restricted)- resigned 2 years
P Jeremy Kapinos (exclusive rights)
# refers to unrestricted free agent rank
Packers re-sign S Atari Bigby
Packers re-sign CB Tramon Williams
Packers re-sign 3-4 DE Johnny Jolly
Packers sign QB Graham Harrell
Packers re-sign G Daryn Colledge
Packers sign S Charlie Peprah
Packers re-sign FB John Kuhn
Packers re-sign G Jason Spitz
Packers re-sign TE Spencer Havner
Packers re-sign CB Will Blackmon
Packers re-sign OT Mark Tauscher
Packers re-sign S Nick Collins
Packers cut 3-4 DE Michael Montgomery
Packers tender CB Tramon Williams
Packers tender 3-4 DE Johnny Jolly
Packers tender C Jason Spitz
Packers tender G Daryn Colledge
Packers tender S Atari Bigby
Packers tender TE Spencer Havner
Packers tender FB John Kuhn
Packers tender CB Will Blackmon
Packers franchise NT Ryan Pickett
Packers re-sign S Derrick Martin